Friday, July 24, 2015

Not Too Much of a Good Thing (2015)

'Tis the season of lots of produce in the CSA shares!  'Tis also the time of year when your farmers' hum a happy tune as they pick the bounty, looking forward to the moment that you come and pick up your share.
Happy plants = happy farmers which should = happy CSA members!
It is difficult for us to remember that the extra full bags, buckets and boxes may not represent the same thing to you (as farm share holders) as they do to us (as the growers of your food).  What you are seeing in shares now are a part of what we've been working diligently for all season long.  Finally we're giving you a bonus return for your investment in our farm. 

We are also getting to see the payback for the effort we put into nursing those tiny plants along for weeks and months prior to getting any benefit out of them.  It is no wonder that we, as your farmers, are happy to give you more produce than usual at this time of year.  We want you to celebrate with us!

We are reminded, however, that most share holders can only get through so much produce in a given week.  We recognize that extra produce received isn't always viewed as a 'bonus.'  Instead, it might be an additional stress during a busy time as you ask yourself, "How do I deal with all of this produce?"  But, we don't want you to feel this way.  We'd like you to celebrate Summer and the strong harvest portion of the growing season with us.  So, here are some tips that we use and that other share holders have used with success.
1. Produce Lasts Longer Than You Think!
We realize that many people think everything received in one week must be consumed rapidly, or it will go bad.  But, if you treat your produce well, it can last much longer than you think.  For example, we put lettuce in a plastic bag with a paper towel inside.  The paper towel regulates moisture.  If you place this bag in the crisper, you should have good lettuce for a couple of weeks.  At worst, you will have a few bad leaves that you should pull off prior to use.

One of the things we do at the farm is hydro-cool some of our produce, which helps them to last longer.  We actually brought a large bag of spinach with us on a trip this Winter and were able to eat it for several days.  We kept it in a bag that we wrapped in a hotel towel with ice from the ice machine.  We refreshed the ice periodically and the spinach was still good to go on the last day of the trip.

Zucchini season only last through about 2 months of a 12 month year - enjoy them now.
2. Cook a BIG stir fry now and reap the rewards of soup in January!
There are only two of us in our household, but we have successfully consumed a large share (plus some) with reasonable success.  You might be tempted to say, " Hey! You're the farmers, it's easy for you to deal with all of this produce." Let me remind you that we often don't get around to eating our evening meal until 9pm this time of year.  Lunches are often affairs with 2 to 5 additional people at the table (workers) and breakfasts are usually snarfed on the go as we try to do chores and prepare for workers to arrive.  We don't get to eat or process the amount of veg WE want to either.  So - take some of these hints for busy people who have little time and lots of produce to use.

Pok choi may seem a little strange at first, but it isn't hard to use.

When we have a great deal of things like zucchini, summer squash, onion, pok choi, kale, chard, eggplant and peppers, we find ourselves making a GIANT stir fry with some or all of these items.  The trick is to not expect to eat anything more than a normal serving as a part of that meal.  The rest goes into quality freezer bags.  They get a label that says "soup starter" and they are put into our freezer.  When January comes around and fresh produce is no where to be found, use these bags to start a fabulous soup or stew that can go in whatever direction you prefer.  These vegetables could be added to a creamy base, a tomato base or... well, use your imagination.  It works great and doesn't take much more time beyond what you would normally use to make dinner with fresh vegetables.

3. Vegetables for Breakfast are OK
Tammy and I will admit that we do not associate the use of vegetables with breakfast.  Fruit, yes.  Veg, no.  It's a social norm that should not stop us from using vegetables in our breakfasts.  We have the benefit of farm fresh eggs and farm fresh vegetables - which makes it a good time to do a frittata!

Veggie Frittata
Easy vegetable dish for breakfast or dinner. Experiment with additional vegetables, spices or meats. This is REALLY GOOD!
  • 1 summer squash or zucchini, sliced
  •       (or about 1 cup of any sauteed vegetable)
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • ½ c sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • 1-2 sweet peppers, chopped (or a hot pepper if you want spicy)
  • 1-2 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 c chopped kale - or chard - or pok choy
  • 1/8 c. chopped basil (if you like)
  • 4 lrg eggs
  • 1/3 c shredded cheese
Sautee vegetables in skillet with oil until tender (use 2-3 T water to help steam veggies). Add chopped basil and stir. Don’t over cook vegetables. Make sure some oil remains in skillet so eggs won’t stick.
Whip eggs until fluffy. Add shredded cheese. Pour into skillet, cover and cook approximately 5 minutes over medium heat or until eggs fluffy and cooked through.

Kale in frittatas, stir fries and soups.  Yep, that'll work.
Remember - you don't have to follow this recipe exactly.  In fact, Tammy will tell you that she just goes with the flow.  No two frittatas are alike at GFF!  We have successfully used chard, pok choi, spinach, kale and chinese cabbage instead of basil.  We've added sweet potatoes, potatoes and eggplant as well.  The biggest trick seems to be finding the right amount of cooking time for each item so that the texture is the way you want it. 

4. Freezing some of your veg during peak season is not hard
There is a myth that if you are going to process food for long-term storage that it is requires you to invest great amounts of time and effort into it.  This is not a 'go big or go home' proposition.  You can put a surprising amount of food up for later use in small increments.

For example, if two people can only eat a half pound of green beans and you have a full pound of green beans, cook up the half pound to eat.  Then, freeze the other half pound.

  1. put the half pound of green beans into 1-2 inches of boiling water (do not fully immerse them) for 4 minutes
  2. remove the beans immediately and get them into ICE COLD water to stop the cooking (the beans are now 'blanched').
  3. once cold, put the beans into a freezer bag.
  4. Fill the bag with cold water to remove the air pockets.
  5. leave the water in and seal the bag.
  6. place the bag in the freezer.

When you want beans in February, take the bag out, open it up and put the whole block of frozen beans into the pot and cook them as you would normally.  While they aren't quite as good as they were fresh out of the garden, they certainly do well enough!

You can use a similar process for broccoli, cauliflower and peas (for example).
Broccoli will be appearing soon!
Some veg you can simply cut up and freeze without blanching (peppers and basil come to mind).
Do you have some suggestions for others that you would like to share?  Let us know.

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